Saturday, January 23, 2016

It's Only Me- Chapter 8- Sex and Ulcers

Around 1971 I lost my virginity to a girl named Mona who was 2 grades behind me in school. She lived one floor above or below my friend John. I still remember the first night I got laid- my Mom and Dad had gone out on a Saturday night and wouldn’t be home until about 1 AM. So Mona and I went to my place and proceeded to proceed when I heard the front door open and my parents come in. Quickly thinking I put Mona in the closet and jumped back under the covers.

It was 10 PM on a Saturday night and I was 17. I must have been stupid to believe that my parents would accept that I went to bed early. My plan was to sneak Mona out the back window which opened onto the flat concrete roof of the underground garage. From there I planned to run to the iron stairway that led to the street. But I had miscalculated my parents, who, entering my room and turning on the lights saw two piles of clothes on the floor.

To say that all hell broke loose would be an understatement. There was yelling and cursing and all manner of confusion. After they left the room Mona got dressed and I took her two blocks to her home and then returned to face the music.

My mother asked me if the "girl" had “told you that you were the first”, implying that I was the victim of a teenage werewolf slut come to consume her child. I tried to explain that I wasn’t looking for purity- just sex, but when my Mom saw the used condom and wrapper on the floor near the bed, all was lost. An auspicious beginning to my love life…

John and Jim had become good friends by this time and I spent a lot of time at their house. Their Dad worked as a chef and I envied the freedom that his odd hours afforded them. By this time we had all begun to drink, mostly wine, cheap wine- so we would get pretty buzzed. On the night of my 17th birthday this would become a problem.

We were drinking in Kelly Park on 16th Street and Moore Place, riding the swings and climbing the monkey bars. I should tell you that there were two Kelly Parks; the old one where the Italian and Irish “hitters” hung out; and the new Kelly Park, which was built for the adjoining elementary school that bore it’s name. We were in the latter one- seemingly safe from the “hitters.”

Whatever forces of nature, the cosmos or fate that existed came together that night and sent the Kelly Park “Gang” through the new park, which was separated from the old one by an elevated rail line of the subway system. Spotting us they said something, and we replied with shouts of “Have a fucking drink!” We were gleefully drunk. This prompted the Kelley Park boys to come tearing through the fence and begin to deliver us a sound beat down. We at first tried to deflect the blows but ended up running from the park, up 16th Street to the safety of John and Jimmy’s apartment. Only after arriving there did we realize that Jimmy was not with us. Racing back toward the park we found him, a bit more bruised than we were, but for the most part alright. We were sore for days!

Shortly after this episode I left home for good and established myself in a basement apartment on Ave W and Bedford Avenue. The house was owned by two nice Orthodox Jews who decided to take a chance on me and my black Lab. Hard to believe, but I had a dog. His name was Tommy, short for Tomorrow. I named him for the Wings song of the same name. With a red bandana around his neck he was irresistible.

By this time I had become friends with Steve Freund and his girlfriend Donna. Steve was a year and a half older than me and in my brothers’ classes in high school. But they were never friends. Donna was a hairstylist, 30 years old and really beautiful. She lived in the same building as Steve and his parents. It wasn’t too long before Steve moved from the 5th floor with his parents, to the first floor with Donna and Duke, the beautiful and loyal German Shepard that was hers.

Donna sold nickel bags of grass and so there was a constant flow to her place of all sorts of young people. She also cut hair on the side and this increased the traffic and annoyed the neighbors.

I was working part time at a supermarket on Avenue U and trying to go to Kings Borough Community College in Sheepshead Bay full time. I lasted about 2 weeks and realized that I was only going to school to prove to my parents that I didn’t need them. I really had no desire to be there. So I left class one day and wrote “Cold October Parks” to my mother, sitting at the end of the Bay near Lundy’s restaurant and never went back.


I’m sitting-in the cold
October park-
Just sitting-writing a poem
About how beautiful
Everything could be.
Isn’t it a joke-
(you) telling me.

I’m sitting- in the cold
December dark-
Just sitting- writing a poem
About how ugly
Everything can be.
Isn’t this a joke-
(me) trying to tell you.

Two days before the election of 1972 I was getting a haircut and a nickel of pot at Steve and Donna’s when I felt very strange. I had been having stomach cramps and pain for several weeks and attributed it to not eating right. I got up from the chair and went to the bathroom where I tried to throw up but couldn’t. Instead I felt a welling of warmth rising like liquid in my esophagus and then I started to vomit purple blood. The smell was overpowering and I think I passed out. Steve opened the door and Donna made the diagnosis. An ambulance was called and I was moved to the lobby to wait for it. I could not stand- I had lost too much blood- so I lay there on the floor.

Now I remember the neighbors coming out and berating Donna and Steve and calling me “Yunkie”- which is Junkie with a Yiddish accent. Steve remembers it a bit differently and recalls carrying me out to the police car when it was decided that I would not make it if I waited on the ambulance. I trust Steve's recollection better than my own.

The ambulance arrived at the last second and I remember the siren and that’s about all until I got to the hospital. My blood pressure was 60/40 or something like that. I had an immediate transfusion of 3 pints of blood. My right lung had collapsed and a scalpel was used to make a whole in my side to re inflate my lung. I was connected by a tube to a large glass jar, creating a vacuum to re-inflate my lung. That’s when I passed out.

Later that night my parents arrived and I threw them out. They were setting me up for the same kind of surgeries that ruined my mothers health and as long as I was conscious they could not make the decision for me. So I stuck it out, barely awake. A Korean intern came in and announced that “an 18 year old should not need surgery.”

I had peptic bleeding ulcers, just like my Mom and did not want to follow the same course of treatment that had left her ill from the time I was six and for the rest of her life. The treatment then was to cut out half of the stomach- the theory being that the sores were removed. But that left half a stomach and all the acids for a full stomach! This is rarely done today.

But the Korean intern had some ideas of his own. He produced some tubing and inserted two lengths, one in each nostril, down to my stomach. Then using iced water and a bulb syringe he washed iced water over my stomach to cause the bleeding to stop, It worked and probably saved my life. Whoever he was and wherever he is, I send my eternal thanks.

While in the hospital I missed my first Presidential election. It was 1972 and Nixon vs. McGovern.

During my 2 weeks in Coney Island Hospital I managed to smoke some pot on the sly. One of my friends, Jeff, brought some in and at night I went to the bathroom across the hall and had a few hits. I was still hooked up to the jar. The next morning I awoke with a Doctor questioning me- “How did that smoke get in the jar?” to which I boldly replied, “You’re the doctor- you tell me!”

I also managed to get out on a field trip one day. Seth came by with his Dad's car and some weed. We strolled right out through the lobby with me in my hospital gown and carrying the IV. We drove around a bit in the Coney Island area and smoked some before returning.

In about 2 weeks I was discharged and discovered that my parents had closed up my apartment and sold my dog. With nowhere to go I wound up back home for what was supposed to be 12 weeks. I made it only to New Years.

In January I went with John and Jimmy DiStefano and rented the first floor of 2132 Ocean Avenue from Mr. and Mrs. Rosenberg. It was 7 rooms- old, but nice. It was on “Doctors Row” across from the public library.

I was working again- as a buyers assistant in the Garment District for Ted and Harold Cohen. The son had a division called THC Graphics. But every morning I had to get off the train and throw up on my way in. The job, or rather, I, didn’t last long and so I quickly became unemployed. Little did I know, but I was about to enter one of the more interesting periods of my life.

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